Unions flag Telstra AGM action

Unions flag Telstra AGM action

Summary: Telstra's unions will descend on the telco's annual general meeting in Melbourne this Friday to exhort shareholders to ask the telco why it has taken such a hard line with unions and to highlight risks associated with the national broadband network.


Telstra's unions will descend on the telco's annual general meeting in Melbourne this Friday to exhort shareholders to ask the telco why it has taken such a hard line with unions and to highlight risks associated with the national broadband network.

(Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet.com.au)

A spokesperson for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said that union members would be handing out pamphlets on entry and that some union employees would attend the AGM to ask some questions.

"We'll be there for two reasons. Firstly to tell shareholders why members are probably going to vote to take industrial action," the spokesperson said.

After Telstra walked away from the negotiating table in July without having decided on conditions to replace those in expiring Australian Workplace Agreements, unions have tried various avenues to try and get what they consider to be fair terms for their members.

However, trips since to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to force mediation have been in vain, and a deal Telstra put to some of its employees was voted down. The unions held meetings across the country canvassing the idea of industrial action and earlier this month went to the AIRC to ask permission to hold a strike ballot asking union members whether they were prepared to undertake unlimited stoppages of up to 24 hours at a time. The AIRC granted permission.

This ballot will also commence on Friday, although it was not specifically timed to coincide, according to the ACTU spokesperson.

The second reason the unions were attending the AGM was to make sure the shareholders considered — and asked pertinent questions — about the extra pages Telstra had been forced to include with the notice of AGM about potential business risks the national broadband network posed to the company.

These claimed risks included Telstra walking away from the tender process for the broadband network, which the shareholders considered might erode Telstra's value, and that the telco might be forced to separate its operations if it won, again potentially causing share prices to drop. The last risk outlined was that any new regulatory regime to come in place with the broadband network would endanger the telco's profits.

The national broadband network has received further attention from the unions this week, with Telstra's unions releasing a statement of principles they believe must be adhered to for the national broadband network to be a success for Australia. The release followed a meeting the unions held last week with members of the Australia Labor Party caucus.

The unions slammed Telstra in a statement accompanying the principles, blaming the company for the "current parlous state" of Australia's broadband as well as calling into question the "exorbitant" 18 per cent return it was demanding for building the network, in contrast to rival Terria's 12 per cent.

ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons also pointed out the importance of the network builder having fair work principles.

"The successful bidder must have a co-operative relationship with its workforce within the framework of the federal government's Forward with Fairness industrial relations policy," he said in a statement.

"This means recognising the right of employees to collectively bargain and have union representation, and providing quality jobs with decent pay and conditions," he continued.

"No government could seriously consider allowing a multi-billion tender to go to a company that does not have the appropriate industrial relations arrangements in place."

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Telcos, Telstra

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Proud but free.

    While the Union movement may take advantage of the great freedoms of Australia to attempt to promote their interests at the coming Telstra AGM I am sure, that because of the interests of Telstra shareholders, their appeal will fall on deaf ears.

    Telstra Management have endured many ordeals and having come through the barrage of fire from the Howard Government and some horrific unfairness from the Australian Press they are unlikely to be cowered by Unions.

    Rather than the old bully boy "we'll wreck you" attitude I think the relevant Unions would be better to work with Telstra in an effort to have Telstra build the NBN, maintain viability and allow the company to extend excellent pay and conditions for Telstra employees.

    Unions do have a valuable contribution to make for Australian employees but really do have to understand that the old guerilla tactics have passed forever. As importantly Telstra must admit that as employees are required it is to Telstra's advantage to have a harmonious relationship in this area.
  • Unions - Were on the road to nowhere

    Cant disagree with any point there Sydney, However what is Telstra or the Telstra union employee's (for now) to think of union "negotiation' with Terria !

    In fact I believe the union is publicly stating it is aiming to supply Telstra union employee's to Terria !

    The fact that is bullsh*t is beside the point.
    The fact that inadvertantly that may well be to Telstra's advantage is also beside the point.

    Very bad move by the unions.
    Your foot's already got a couple of selfinflicted Shots in it, your now in danger of doing much worse.
  • Proud But Free ????

    What on earth does that mean. Really Sydney, you do write some rubbish. What's the opposite? 'Humble but enslaved'?

    As for 'ordeals' of 'barrages of fire' and 'horrific unfairness' (love it) from the press - Sydney, their ordeals were of their own making and the press presents facts and/or both sides of an argument, which it has done. The press criticized Telstra? How horrific! lol.

    But to get to the thrust of the article - what 'guerilla tactics' Sydney? Check the facts Sydney. Telstra tried to rush through WorkPlace agreements beofre the legislation was repealed by the govt. The union tried to negotiate and Telstra obstructed and blocked. Telstra put an agreement to a vote of it's employees, it was not accepted. The union continued to try and negotiate and Telstra continue to block and frustrate. In fact, Telstra organized non-union labour to step in in the event of a strike. The union went to the AIRC to seeking permission to take protected action, as per the laws of the land. It was granted. The union will now inform shareholders of the issues and why they intend to take industrial action. What can be fairer than that, and all legal and within the law. There is no 'guerilla action' Sydney - just employees seeking to protect their rights when all other avenues have failed.

    And make no mistake, this is Telstra chairman Don McGouchie's pidgeons coming home to roost. Do some research regarding his involvement with the union movement.

    Sorry but the interests of Telstra shareholders does not give them the right to ride roughshod over the rights of employees, nor over the interests of Australia as a whole. The only bully on the block is Telstra.
  • Are you high Sydney??

    cause sometimes i wonder... I'm not even going to reply to your post syd other than to pose the question of was your judgement impaired when you wrote that?! and no no, anon what the union is doing is representing any potential workers that terria hire, they've agreed on "right when you hire terria ppl, and they join the union, they get these rights, this pay, agreed?' and terria thought the union was been fair and agreed... oh and telstra's now selctively singling out areas to offer the agreements to so they get a yes... Departments must now register there interest in voting yes in an agreement for the agreement to be offered to that area... sounds a little rigged if you ask me?
  • Truth with justice.

    Tailgator you disappoint me for displaying your distinct lack of logical conclusion.

    My "Proud but free" indicator was with reference to "Proud" to be a Union Member if I wish BUT "Free" to make that choice. Simply don't you think.

    My reference to the unfairness of the Press is ably demonstrated by the myriad of printed racist remarks about our Telstra American friends. Sol himself said this type of comment would not be acceptable anywhere else in the world.

    I think Tailgator because of our entrenched positions we will agree to disagree on this issue but I do think that Telstra would have continued talks with the Unions had the Unions not introduced tricky side issues to try to force Telstra into compulsory Unionism.
  • @proud but free????

    agree 100% tailgator. telstra have lost the plot here.

    just to add its not only mcgauchie, but many other telstra execs with close links to anti union politicians. just look at the ceo and his u.s team of republican backers. quilty and breum, former speech writers for the libs/nats etc

    i've been having a zdnet running battle with mel sommersberg, over negative comments i made regarding terria. but mel, who is a terria loving, telstra hating, conservative, lmao, cant quite grasp that i dont take sides, so here's proof, i'm critcising telstra and the libs this time mel(asaurus). next it will be rudd and conroy, so dont panic, just yet.

    the catch 22 problem now facing poor old mel is that he/she, will have to swallow his/her pride and support telstra on this one, with terria siding with the unions.

    after all mel doesnt want the lads/ladies down at the country club, to think he's/she's supporting the riff raff or associating with the *help*.rofl